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PCAction.de Interview Translation

Posted by Chris Avellone , 12 May 2010 · 1757 views

Translation from PCAction.de, although I'd argue Google does a more amusing job than my original text.

Please introduce yourself (full name, age, company, position):

I'm Christopher Frederic Avellone (you want the full name, you got it, even the embarassing middle name that my Mom picked from some French emperor which I've never understood). My job? Creative Director at Obsidian Entertainment, which means I review and do a lot of design. I'm almost at the 4 decade mark (minus 2 years), I still feel young at heart.

Please share some interesting moments of your career (e.g. games your worked on or companies you worked for etc.):

I helped train police officers and FBI agents in Quantico, VA in a fake town called "Hogan's Alley" where they built an entire three block radius as a training ground for criminal scenarios - each day we'd go in, be given a cast sheet and a schedule (you're a kidnapper today, and you need to be in the pool hall by 3pm). I've written for pen-and-paper role playing games, and I've worked on a lot of computer role-playing games, especially Dungeons and Dragons (Torment, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights 2), Fallout (Fallout 2, Van Buren, Fallout New Vegas), and I was also Lead Designer on Torment, Van Buren (stage 1, Josh Sawyer took over for Stage 2 after I left to help found Obsidian), Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and most recently, Alpha Protocol. My high school guidance counselor neglected to mention game development as a career option, and I am somewhat irritated by this because as a career, it's GREAT.

Some funny/curious/entertaining facts about your life (e.g. you would kill for an ice cream/you’ve got 16 kids at once/you actually hate video games etc.):

I have a kona blend coffee addiction, only with hazelnut creamer, though. I make notes in all the books I read and put post-it notes in every comic book I read so I can remember certain passages and images that would make cool spells, creatures, character names, or locations. This also prevents me from borrowing books from my friends, as I have a tendency to mark them up with pens and write game ideas in them. I feel like I've worked on every science fiction genre I never imagined I would ever touch. Like Star Wars. And Aliens. And Star Trek. If I could go back in time to "past Chris" and explain to him that not only would he eventually date girls and not stress about dying alone, I would also explain to him that he needs to appreciate all the hours he spent absorbing Star Wars, Aliens, and Star Trek and that it would eventually develop into a lucrative, fulfilling career that would make his soul happy. End advice for everyone: do what you love to do, there's a career doing it or something close to it somewhere out there. : )

Well, let’s get to the interview:

What does your workday at Obsidian Entertainment look like?


My day at Obsidian begins the night before - I go into Rasputin mode and predict the future by checking my schedule for the next day, checking my daily email folder for the day to see what I dumped in there ("...it's Thursday tomorrow, I need to have that interview done for Friday."), then watch TV or movie related to a current project (for example, throughout Alpha Protocol, I was watching 24 almost non-stop, and for Fallout New Vegas, I've been traveling back through my library of post-holocaust movies). I then go to sleep, dream I'm Mad Max, wake up, exercise, go into work at 9:30, tear through inbox, check the daily folders and task lists to see what the schedule is for the day, then focus on three major tasks and try to knock them out before the end of the day (can be character design, writing scripts, doing a designer applicant interview, design document review, playing an area of the New Vegas build and typing up feedback, or even doing this interview). By 7PM, I'm usually staring blearily at the screen, so I either go workout again or play Fallout 3 until I feel like doing more work and going home, then rinse and repeat. I usually find it difficult to write characters during the day, so I usually wait until afterhours to do pitches, proposals, and get into the "voice" of the character for an area.

Obsidian is famous for its RPGs. So what about you? Do you only play RPGs?

When not playing Fallout New Vegas builds, I'm (re)playing Fallout 3 to hit every single major, minor, random, and DLC location in the overland map, at about 60 hours right now and I've only covered a third of the territory, I'm about to hit the Pitt after getting yanked up into Mothership Zeta. (Ed: Got to the Pitt a while ago, then the milestone hit.)

What are your favorite games of all times? And what about movies/music?

Fallout 1, Chronotrigger, Zuma, Final Fantasy III, the Hero System, Illuminati, Chez Geek, System Shock 2, Bomberman (multiplayer), Robotron 2084, Myth 1, Ultima Underworld I. I have a lot of "design doc" games that I think all designers should play (Dead Space's interface is really incredible, for example).

If you had a chance to change something in the gaming industry, what would it be (and why)?

The role of audio, narrative, and QA status. Audio and narrative are made part of the process much too late in many cases and the current process makes iterating on a story much less fluid. As for QA, I don't think QA has ever been treated with the level of recompensation it deserves nor have the skills that quality assurance brings to a title recognized for their true value.

Please continue this sentence: „If I hadn’t got a job in the gaming industry, I probably would be a …“. Why?

...a struggling comic book author and cartoonist. I say this because it's what I do in my spare time right now, I write Star Wars titles when I can and I do cartooning on the side as well. It's a huge relief to do something quick and creative, since games can take such a long time to develop. If I couldn't get a full time job as an author or cartoonist, I'd probably be a teacher or lawyer.

Some games are very popular. But unlike in the movie business there is only a small fan audience adoring the people behind the product (e.g. game’s producers, directors, sound makers etc.). Are you annoyed by that fact?

Nope. There's so many people involved with making a product good (or bad) anyway, it'd be hard to juggle them all. I am only annoyed when people don't give credit where credit is due, and if magazine articles come out that give credit where credit isn't due (usually by accident or giving people wrong titles), that makes me sad.

What’s your personal opinion of themes like sex and violence in video and computer games?

I love sex. I love the fact my parents loved having sex. Sex is great. Our species would die out without sex. I consider taboos on sex ridiculous in any M-rated title where the label says "hey, there's sex in here." In short, sex is great for the species, and it made me who I am today... as in, alive. I don't have an opinion on violence because I am too busy thinking about sex.

Casual games destroy the market for core games“. Do you agree? Why? Why not?

I don't believe casual games are intentionally trying to hurt core games' feelings or cause them any physical harm. I believe both should exist in harmony, holding hands, and providing fun for all. I will say casual games delight me because they allow for more random experimental fun than some big budget titles to, or are afraid to experiment with.

Is there anything about your job that you dislike?

Performance reviews, always knowing that any design you do could have been 20% better and you have to leave that extra 20% for the next title, the escalating cost of games making it less likely publishers and developers will take risks, and the parameters that production and voice acting places on narrative design.

What would you suggest our readers who want to start a career as a game developer?

Do the job before you get the job. If you want to design computer games, go ahead and do it - there's plenty of mods and game editors out there, and they'll teach you more practical experience on how to make games than reading or listening to someone talk about making games. Also, anything you do with a game editor or a modding community ends up being something you can place on your resume or in a game developer application as something you worked on, and those submissions carry a lot of weight with us.

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